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SXSW Presents: Naked Giants

*photo by Stephanie Severance 

In a place that doesn't see a lot of sun, anything that's recalls warm beaches, endless sunshine and running around outside is definitely appreciated. Naked Giants encompass this aesthetic in their sound, bringing the styles of a brighter region all the up to the romantically dreary Pacific Northwest. 

The trio, having popped up onto to scene not even that long ago, make fun and youthfully jaunty garage rock that no matter how old you are, make you feel like you're in your early 20s again. Naked Giants have dropped a few collections of songs over the last three years of their new but bright career, but their upcoming full-length debut Sluff shows them at their most energetic and excited yet. Exactly what "sluff" is depends on who you're talking to, but whether it stands for "South Lake Union Fuck Face" (which references the techies taking over Seattle) or the black sludge that comes off your shoes in the snow, the one thing that is for sure is spark is infectious, sluffy or not, and it'll make you want to bounce around whenever you see them.





SXSW Presents: SassyBlack

 *photo by Dusty Henry

SassyBlack is everything. The songstress and producer is well-educated and classically trained with roots in jazz and soul, though she is in no way confined to them elementally. Formally of the Seattle group THEEsatisfaction and having worked closely with experimental hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces and traveled the world, SassyBlack (whose real name is Catherine Harris-White) has no shortage of experience to contribute to the psychedelic electronic r&b she makes.

Her voice smooth like soulfully funky butter, it's reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu and J*Davey with a Herbie Hancock twist to her production, adding a modern and intellectual spin to her performances. SassyBlack grew up with a family devoted to music, their time spent together having dance parties and playing music history trivia. She still engages her love for pop culture and music history, having recorded three volumes so far of her Pop (& R&B) Treasury cover EPs. 

Whether it's an original track or a tribute to a deep cut, everything SassyBlack touches is gold, and worthy of numerous replays.





SXSW Presents: Special Explosion

It's been nearly a decade since dreamo (that's dream-pop and emo, in case you were wondering) act Special Explosion erupted onto the scene, and we couldn't be more happy to have them after all these years. They take out the whininess typically associated with emo music. Instead, they keep all of that emotion and channel it through tender indie rock with lucid atmospheres and textures.

Even during a time when the world around them, in a musical and real life sense, was unreliable and confusing, Special Explosion maintained their collective head, supported by their four pairs of shoulders. With many releases behind them, their late 2017 album To Infinity can be considered debut, as far as full-length records are concerned. It provides 10 tracks worth of their adept instrumentation, recalling earlier days of Death Cab for Cutie and Sufjan Stevens but always sounding like their own.

They're the kind of band you see and fall in love with, over and over again, and that's part of what makes them so special.





SXSW Presents: Smokey Brights

 *photo by Yunkin Keophoma

The 70s was a good era for music. To today's generation, much of that decade is considered to have produced nothing but solid gold oldies. But for matrimonial duo Smokey Brights, it's the era they've used as channelled inspiration for their sonic release. They're like a sift through milk crates full of records, each one touching on a different aspect of rock history. 

With a psychedelic flair that encompasses both funky and groovy notes, Smokey Brights have used their new EP, Come to Terms (Freakout Records), to express a list of grievances to come to terms with. Of them, heartbreak, shady politics and empty conversations are all examined within the four tracks on Come to Terms, softened by rousing crystalline rock sounds. It's entirely too easily to get caught up in Smokey Brights' textures and whether you're fervently listening to the lyrics or dazedly zoning out to their resonance, it's an all around enlivening experience.





SXSW Presents: SISTERS

 *photo by Stanton J. Stephens

They may not be sisters or even siblings for that matter, but SISTERS have that type of likeminded connection that makes for great, danceable pop music. Much like the indie club bangers of the mid 2000's, SISTERS know the exact formula to make people move.

On their latest release, titled Wait Don't Wait, the duo employ synths, baritone sax and flute on top of the usual guitar and drum combo in creating their joyous tunes. Some lean heavily on jazz chords while others have grubby basslines that make your shoulders bounce. Whenever everything is combined, there's an album full of melodious bangers that can up any mood and get any party started.

If you're looking to dance while at SXSW, take every chance you get to see SISTERS.

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